Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Motherboard’s Overreaction to the Bluetooth and WiFi Toggles in iOS 11

Emanuel Maiberg, writing for Vice Motherboard on the new behaviour in iOS 11 of the Control Centre toggle switches for WiFi and Bluetooth.

Users can still completely turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi by digging into the devices menu settings, but essentially the button does not do what a user can reasonably assume Apple says it does, and that’s because Apple doesn’t trust you. This decision is the next logical step for what has always been Apple’s design ethos: It thinks it knows what you want more than you do.


But now Apple has taken this philosophy a step further. It has gone from protecting users by omitting or blocking features to outright deceiving to users about what certain features do. “It just works,” except when you actually know what you’re doing but aren’t allowed to do it. It would have been easy to make the Control Center customizable, but of course it is not.

I agree with Maiberg’s stance that the revised behaviour of the Control Centre toggles is not clear. However, I find the rest of his argument utterly ridiculous. The two paragraphs that I quoted effectively summarize his position, and they’re full of hot garbage:

  1. I can’t speak to Apple’s intentions here, but for everyone I know, the reason they toggle WiFi in Control Centre is because a weak WiFi signal is temporarily irritating them and they want a quick way to disconnect from the network. Similarly, a user may simply opt to disconnect from a Bluetooth speaker by tapping the Control Centre toggle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple had information on what users’ true intent is when using these toggles and adjusted the behaviour accordingly.

  2. Describing this behaviour change as “deceptive” gives it an unnecessarily sinister vibe. A softer version of Hanlon’s razor more correctly explains what’s going on here: poor communication, rather than duplicitous intent.

  3. Maiberg claims in the second quoted paragraph that if “you actually know what you’re doing” you “aren’t allowed to do it”, but he opens the first quoted paragraph — just two prior, in the article itself — by noting that you can switch off WiFi and Bluetooth completely in Settings.

Maiberg’s just getting started, though. He has other complaints along the same lines:

The “delete” key on MacOS does not allow you to delete files.

One may reasonably argue that this is a smart design decision to prevent taking a destructive action accidentally.

Apps must be approved by Apple before entering the App Store. Increasingly, it makes it harder for you to install third-party programs on MacOS (in Sierra, this option is hidden).

It only makes it trickier to install unsigned third-party applications. Your average user probably doesn’t run into this kind of stuff very often. Those who do need to use an unsigned app can figure out how to approve it with Gatekeeper.

Some of what Maiberg argues comes down to preference. Apple’s design direction is that normal people don’t feel lost when using their products, or get confused when things don’t behave as they were expecting. Sometimes — as with the WiFi and Bluetooth controls — this can confuse more technically-minded users. But claiming that Apple doesn’t trust their users is a misinformed overreaction.